Friday, 26 May 2017

Intrigue at the Court of Chaos

DCC #80: Intrigue at the Court of Chaos is a level 1 adventure written by Michael Curtis. Art is by Doug Kovacs (also cover and maps), Jim Holloway, and Stefan Poag. The publisher is Goodman Games.

This is an adventure that I have written about before, and my opinion has not changed. So long as you are willing to accept that there may be a little bit of conflict within the party, this is an adventure that you should have in your bag of judge's tricks.

This adventure is almost impossible to discuss properly without giving too much away. The adventure itself is conceptually quite simple, but it is written in a way that will encourage truly memorable play one the players add their own complexities. And it is almost inevitable that they will.

The very concept of this adventure is something that, in another system, might have occurred near the end of a party's adventuring career. Not here. Michael Curtis drops newly-minted PCs, fresh out of the funnel, into the very center of the conflict between Law and Chaos.

If you are planning to run this adventure as part of a campaign, the Yokeless Egg may be linked to the Egg of Creation in The Falcate Idol. There are also a number of entities in this adventure which would make excellent patrons, and the adventure gives PCs reason to consider that possibility. It would be very cool to see these written up, possibly in an expanded version of Intrigue at the Court of Chaos, or possible elsewhere (The long-awaited Annual? A Gen Con program guide?).

At the mercy of Chaos! Abducted by the Court of Chaos, the adventurers face hard choices if they want to return home. The Host of Chaos desires a legendary artifact held by the Scions of Law and need pawns to retrieve it. Faced with an eternity of servitude, the party must sneak into the Plane of Law and steal the Yokeless Egg from under its guardians’ watch. But not all is what it appears when the Court of Chaos is concerned and serving the Host may destroy the party from within. Can they survive the Intrigue At the Court of Chaos?

Get It Here!

Wednesday, 24 May 2017

In the Wake of the Zorkul

In the Wake of the Zorkul: No Art Version was written by Oliver Korpilla. The publisher is Mount Parnassus Games.

This adventure is a 0-level funnel, which could be adapted for use with higher-level characters (an alternate hook and adventure start are given in this case).

If you have ever played The Inn at Five Points with Brendan LaSalle, the beginning should seem sort of familiar to you - you are in an inn that falls into a sinkhole, and must then deal with what you find in the caverns. There the similarity ends.

(I would be interested to know if Brendan was running his adventure before In the Wake of the Zorkul, which was uploaded on August 06, 2014. Is this a coincidence, or is there a connection?)

In the Wake of the Zorkul is all about resource management (food, water, and light) while attempting to find a way to escape the cave system you find yourself in. Oliver Korpilla created an interesting and evocative setting, including descriptions of harmless wildlife that can sometimes freak your players out if you are lucky.

I ran this adventure two weekends ago, at the time of this writing. Although there are several potential ways to escape the cave system, none of them are necessarily obvious, and all of them require the players to be willing to risk the unknown. Some highlights of the game included:

  • Without food, the PCs consider returning to the inn and eating whatever bodies they can find. 
  • The Hunter Spiders were very effective, and the PCs were unable to loot one corpse as it was hauled into the darkness overhead.
  • Even with a halfling or two in the party, it didn't occur to the players to try to speak with the Warren Halflings after the were initially attacked. Nor did it occur to them to try to speak before entering the halfling warren, triggering that attack.
  • The Wizard Duel worked extremely well, with one PC being possessed. When that PC died, the Possessing Spirit jumped to another PC. Both players involved did a great job of not telling the third player what was happening.
  • One PC climbed the waterfall at Area 4-2, but then turned back.
  • The PCs found the Zorkul, and wisely decided to go nowhere near it.
  • The famished PCs found the Abandoned Dwarf Mine, and then exited through the Ogre Lair. By this time, I had them rolling d14s instead of d20s, and the battle with the ogre was certainly tense. Only by a combination of rolling well, and burning Luck, could they even hit the thing!

All in all, this was a fun adventure. The "No Art Version" is a free pdf, but I would gladly pay for a print copy with illustrations. There are a lot of points where it could be expanded, allowing the judge to use the exit location chosen by the PCs as an entry to the Underdark proper.

An inn. Usually a place to find entertainment or rest. Instead the earth opened beneath,
swallowed the place whole and now you're fighting for your survival in an underground world.

Get It Here!

Tuesday, 23 May 2017

In the Prison of the Squid Sorcerer

In the Prison of the Squid Sorcerer: Twelve Pulp Weird Encounters for the Dungeon Crawl Classics Roleplaying Game was written by Ken Jelinek, Daniel J. Bishop, Jon Wilson, John Humphrey, and Paul Wolfe. Art is by Jon Gibbons, Daniel J. Bishop, David Fisher, Jason Sholtis, Carl Folmer, César Sebastián Díaz, Nik Wolfe, Rick Hershey, and Soriah Esquivel. Cartography is by John Humphrey. Introduction is by Harley Stroh and Michael Curtis. The publisher is Mystic Bull Games.

Disclosure: I am a writer, illustrator, and editor on this project. If you are curious, my illustrations are on page 5 and the bottom corner of page 10.

In the Prison of the Squid Sorcerer offers a dozen small adventures or encounters, suitable to intersperse among a much larger campaign. I became involved with this project through Paul Wolfe, who had worked with me on Angels, Daemons, and Beings Between.

This was around the time problems were occurring with the patron book, and backers were getting antsy. Paul Wolfe attempted an Indiegogo campaign to fund In the Prison of the Squid Sorcerer that raised a paltry $850 of a $3,500 fixed goal. And who knows? Being stung with the previous Indiegogo campaign might have turned some people off. Not only were two people from Angels, Daemons, and Beings Between major parts of the design team, but the failed project was actually referenced.

(David Fisher, who also supplied art for In the Prison of the Squid Sorcerer, was the principle artist for Angels, Daemons, and Beings Between, and is largely responsible for the eventual appearance of the Expanded, Otherworldly Edition. Still, I don't think he was mentioned in the Mystic Bull Indiegogo campaign.)

Despite  this, Paul Wolfe decided he wished to go ahead, and, after a rocky start - the incident with the previous Indiegogo nearly split up a good team! - I went with him. This was actually entirely driven by Paul Wolfe, because I had been shaken pretty badly by our previous experience together. So, if you find that you are a fan of this work, serious praise should go to Paul Wolfe. He navigated a difficult time with grace and perseverance!

Let's Look Inside!

In the Prison of the Squid Sorcerer: "Driven ashore by a supernatural storm, the party competes with a pirate and his crew to find the brother of a local noble. They soon find that the brother was imprisoned by a god before he could fully bond himself in the service of Cthulhu!"

This is a low-level adventure written by Ken Jelinek. Unless memory fails me, this is the first published Dungeon Crawl Classics adventure that followed the core rulebook's lead and made use of Cthulhu himself!

Mermaids From Yuggoth: "Wintering in a small village, the characters encounter an ancient evil from beyond their world."

This adventure is a series of encounters designed for four to six 3rd level characters, and was intended to "extend over several sessions with other adventures interspersed; as a result, the PCs may be 2nd level at the beginning of the series if they gain a level by the climax." This is the first published Dungeon Crawl Classics adventure to use this format, although there is a second in this volume. I am the author.

The hedge mage, Eric Silverjohn, was named for Silver John, or John the Balladeer, created by Manly Wade Wellman. This is the first Dungeon Crawl Classics adventure to specifically reference those stories, marking it as a possible add-on to a Shudder Mountain campaign, if the judge so desires. The Face in the Frost, by John Bellairs, is also referenced. This is, in part, because Yuggoth, a planet invented by H.P. Lovecraft and sometimes identified with Pluto, is actually mentioned in The Face in the Frost.

The adventure was written based on an illustration by Soriah Esquivel, which appears on Page 14.

Shadows of Malagok: "At the behest of a god, patron, or other powerful entity, the party seeks a powerful artifact within a dismal swamp. They quickly discover that the swamp conceals a shrine to Malagok, the Creator Beast."

This is a mid-level adventure (average 5th level), written by Jon Wilson. It is primarily two encounters, and it ends with a host of questions. This is the sort of thing that a good judge could build a campaign around, if she so desired.

Swindled at the Laughing Harpy: "Seeking respite, perhaps at a tavern in a large town or
a roadside alehouse in the wilderness, the characters encounter two grifters, brothers, under the control of a strange entity. And it all starts with a simple request."

This is an adventure for any level, by Paul Wolfe. It deals with an entity, the Painted Woman (or the Countess of the Veil), who may appear only in a single evening's gaming, or who could potentially be fully developed as a patron. This entry is really a happenstance between adventures, and, depending upon their level, PCs should either flee or fight. Figuring out which applies is not the judge's job!

Slaves of the Visitants:  "The Slaves of the Visitants takes place in a cairn used as hideout for some unfortunate bandits. The place now contains a nexus to another dimension that is being exploited by evil forces from an unknown world."

This is a low-level encounter/adventure written by John Humphrey. I have run it at home, with the outcome that the players wanted to know more about the Visitants. I call that a win. As with the Mist Men's first appearance in The Ooze Pits of Jonas Gralk, I would welcome a further adventure with the Visitants, which further develops who they are and where they came from.

Sails Aflame!: "A massive skarajian , or giant flint beetle, attacks the character’s ship. Alternatively, the characters could discover the creature’s grotesque courtship displays on a lonely stretch of beach. Even with the help of NPC sailors, the skarajian is a difficult creature to slay outright, though its single-minded behavior may save a lower-level party."

This is a low-level encounter by Jon Wilson, which really serves to introduce a monster.

Cave of the Ice Mistress: "Rescuing a maiden imprisoned by bizarre, other-worldly arachnids leads to a deadly game of cat and mouse with the Ice Mistress. The characters must avoid her crystalline spider pets and her terrible gaze that will turn them into statues of ice!"

This is a mid-Level (4-8 5th-level characters) adventure/encounter by Ken Jelinek, designed to be used while the PCs are travelling through some cold region.

The Long Sleep: "Seeking either the village undertaker or perhaps a lost item among the dead, the characters investigate a mausoleum only to discover that a would-be necromancer has very recently taken up residence during his year-long arcane sabbatical to achieve necromantic affinity."

This is a low-level adventure by Ken Jelinek, designed for 8-12 0-level characters or 4-6 1st-level ones. I have run this at home, while the PCs were travelling, and it was satisfying. I am not 100% certain, but I believe that the PCs were level 2 at the time.

The Cult of the Flickering Sign: "Discovering a grisly murder in a back alley, the characters are drawn into investigating a strange symbol that shifts and changes depending on the viewer."

A 3rd level encounter by Paul Wolfe. "Though it can be adapted to any level party, parties below 3rd may be overmatched if they stand and fight." An excellent mini-scenario for an urban-based game!

Another Man's Treasure: "Discovering an abandoned treasure hoard, the characters get more than free riches when their luck subtly changes. Finding the cursed coin amid the easy money is the first challenge; identifying the exact nature of the curse may be harder!"

I have written about this encounter before, and my high opinion of it has not changed. This encounter, by Ken Jelinek, is for any level. It makes excellent use of Luck, which is one of the things that differentiates Dungeon Crawl Classics from the versions of Dungeons & Dragons that are its immediate antecedents.

The Nazhghad's Invocation: "While traveling through the wilderness, the party discovers a savage wizard and his men-at-arms attempting to capture a vile creature. As they attempt to intervene, an enchantress arrives bent on releasing the creature and killing the wizard."

This is a mid-level encounter by Paul Wolfe, which deals with the rivalry between A’Kas and the Nazhghad, highlighting patrons and spell duels in the process.

Icon of the Blood Goddess: "Within the back alleys of a metropolitan area, an icon of an emaciated goddess has broken through ancient brickwork. As the Blood Goddess gains worshippers, she becomes more difficult to defeat. Worse, some of the PCs may inadvertently become worshippers, and what may have seemed benevolent at first becomes a curse…."

This is a mid-level adventure, which I wrote, "designed to span several gaming sessions. Judges may wish to insert these strange and horrific happenings into any adventure or as interludes when characters return to town. With this in mind, the early encounters are suitable for parties of level 0 or 1, and the encounters quickly become more difficult. Characters should be at least level 3 for the final encounter."

This adventure makes use of the "Magic Here and Magic There" advice from the core rulebook, having specific tables for spellcasting side effects and spellburn side effects. I believe that this is the first time these types of table were used in a published Dungeon Crawl Classics adventure.

I actually ran this adventure using two 6th level PCs as protagonists, interspersed with a murder investigation and other events. It was a lot of fun....especially when the cleric realized that lighting candles to the Blood Goddess wasn't a good move, despite the immediate benefit!

At the end, the PCs were happy to note that 50 gp rubies that remove 1 point of Luck were a perfect thing to sacrifice to lower disapproval. Not only is the value exactly what is needed, but your Luck goes up when you do it! I hadn't intended that, but I was pleased that they had the wit to gain what advantages they could....

Get It Here!

The Ifrit's Chosen

The Ifrit's Chosen is a short adventure/encounter written by Paul Wolfe and published by Mystic Bull Games.

There are an amazing array of free materials available for use with Dungeon Crawl Classics. Mystic Bull Games, and author Paul Wolfe, have created several of these. The Ifrit's Chosen in one of them, a short adventure location which may be uncovered by PCs traveling via caravan across a sandy desert.

As the name implies, there is a fantasy Arabian theme to the adventure, being a location from the now-lost Caliphate of the East Winds.

The adventure seems devised largely as a means to have a PC make a pact with the Ifrit, Afara, who can be taken as a patron. Unfortunately, no patron write-up is present...but then, how much can you expect for free?!?

There is a new 1st level wizard spell, runelight, which allows for the creation of some magical light. This spell is complete, and can be downloaded as an image file.

Get It Here!

The Hypercube of Myt

RC #1: The Hypercube of Myt was written by Jim Wampler, Daniel J. Bishop, Dak Ultimak, Stephen Newton, Adam Muszkiewicz, and Jeffrey Tadlock. Art is by James V. West. Cartography is by Jim Wampler. The publisher is Goodman Games.

Disclosure: I was one of the authors on this project, having written "The Endless Hallway".

I was lucky enough to be asked to join the "DCC Cabal" of writers to create a tournament funnel for Free RPG Day 2015. Jim Wampler was the project head of all three RC tournament funnel modules, including this one, Death by Nexus, and The Shambling Un-Dead.

If you are unfamiliar with the concept of tournament funnels, you can listen to this Spellburn podcast, or read this article on the Spellburn website.

The sections of this adventure are:

  • The Endless Hallway
  • The Altar of Chaos
  • The Vault of Fools
  • The Metamorphic Menagerie
  • The Biblioteca Dementia
  • The Arcane Arsenal 

My original idea for the Endless Hallway was that it was the digestive tract of an interplanar creature, and that the doors within it could literally go anywhere if the PCs mastered the Hypercube. This idea was nixed as being both too gross and leading toward split parties, which was deemed undesireable for a tournament funnel. Nonetheless, you can read some ideas that didn't make it into the final project here.

I ran The Hypercube of Myt at Dueling Grounds in Toronto on Free RPG Day 2015. The game was fairly successful, despite occasional blunders and butchering of other author's work. I had obtained gift certificates (at my expense) from the store, so that the winner received a $50 store credit, and the two runners-up received incrementally less. There were many, many dead PCs that day!

The keep of the legendary wizard Mytus the Mad was razed, looted, and ransacked generations before your oldest ancestor was born. The only reason the chaotic sorcerer’s name is still whispered millennia after his death is because of what lies half-buried amid the scattered flagstones of his long-vanished keep: The Hypercube of Myt. This ageless cube is made of adamantite, is covered in filigreed rune circles, and even at a mere 10’ square is preternaturally heavy and cannot be moved. Centuries of tampering with the Cube have proven it to be too resistant to time’s travails or man’s meager efforts to be damaged or otherwise harmed.

Each year on the vernal equinox, the southern entrance unlocks itself from sundown to sunrise. And this is precisely why you are here now, at the annual Festival of the Fatted Calf. The festival is famous for drawing the curious, the foolhardy, and the uncautious from far and wide to ponder the mysteries of the Cube.

As the more sensible denizens of your village have begun to stagger home, you and your friends continue drinking grog-laced ale and speculating on the nature and contents of the immutable Cube. Is it a treasure vault guarded by extra-planar forces, or perhaps a gateway to another time and place? And with that, the first of you slams down your wooden mug and declares lustily, “I’m going in!” Not to be shamed by one so obviously dimwitted and undeserving, you too stand and prepare to enter the Cube.

Soon, there is a unruly drunken mob of you ready to leave your dull and dreary lives as dirt farmers and hemp weavers in exchange for a chance at immortality and glory. The first eight of you rush to the vine-tangled entrance of the Hypercube of Myt and enter, with more sure to follow behind you.

The Cube has two one-way doors on opposite sides: an entrance that becomes unlocked once each year, and the other which is believed to be an exit, though no one in living memory has ever exited the cube. Above the entrance, for those who can read the spiraling script of the ancient Kingdom of Morr, is an inscription that reads, “Whosever may be worthy, can become me.” Riches and power beyond measure are said to lie inside for the taking, if one can but enter, traverse to the other side, and exit the Cube of Myt.

Get It Here!

Hubris: A World of Visceral Adventure

Hubris: A World of Visceral Adventure was written by Mike Evans. Art is by David Lewis Johnson, Alex Mayo, Jeremy Duncan, Angie Groves, Doug Kovacs, Jason Sholtis, and Wayne Snyder. The Foreword is by Harley Stroh. The publisher is DIY RPG Productions.

Disclosure: I supported the kickstarter and am listed in the Gallery of Strange Mutations.

Hubris is a world created from the festering corpse of a dead god. Hubris is an eminently usable toolkit for use in almost any Dungeon Crawl Classics milieu. Hubris is 348 pages of awesome....well, most of those pages are awesome. Some are OGL, index, etc. Either way, it can be a setting, or it can be a toolbox for use in creating/fleshing out your own setting.

Let's look inside!

The book starts with an Introduction, Setting Summary, and World Map.

Chapter 1: Character Creation: Here things get interesting. There is a new occupation table with entries for things like "alien abductee" and "pus diviner".

Hubris includes four new classes and five new race-classes. The classes are Alchemist, Blood Witch, Druid, and Shadowdancer. The race-classes are Avarian, Ekrask, Half Demon, Murder Machine, and Mutant. These are all well-designed classes. Although some are tied into the setting of Hubris (in particular, the Murder Machine, all of these classes are easily enough ported to other milieus.

The Alchemist and the Druid are fairly self-explanatory. You can listen to Jen Brinkman wax poetic about the Blood Witch on this episode of Spellburn. The Shadowdancer is similar to reminiscent of Shadowjack in Jack of Shadows by Roger Zelazny by way of 3rd Edition Dungeons & Dragons' Shadowdancer class. Similarly, the Avarian, Ekrask, Half Demon, and Murder Machine appear to be re-imaginings of the Avian, Dragonborn, Tiefling, and Warforged from 4th Edition. In any event, they are fully enfolded in the Dungeon Crawl Classics ethos and the Hubris aesthetic.

The Mutant is the odd man out for race classes, and appears to be devised specifically for Hubris. Nonetheless, this is a well-crafted, flavorful class that could easily be used in campaign settings such as those of Mutant Crawl Classics, Crawling Under a Broken Moon, or Crawljammer.

I believe that the aarakocra (originally from the 1st Edition Advanced Dungeons & Dragons Fiend Folio) was another inspiration for the Avarian.

Finally, this chapter includes some Optional Rules. These are Sacrifice Shield (effectively the "Shields Shall Be Splintered" rule from Crawl! fanzine #2), Weapon Proficiencies, Class Damage, and Quick Start Gear for characters beginning at 1st level.

Chapter 2: Equipment: This chapter describes new equipment for the Hubris setting, including many items that might be useful in other Dungeon Crawl Classics milieus. Again, the influence of 3rd Edition Dungeons & Dragons appears with items such as the two-bladed sword, or an entire section on alchemical items.

Chapter 3: Territories of Hubris: The author writes:
The territories of Hubris are all set up in the same format: quick summary of the area, a d100 chart of the Lay of the Land, a d100 chart of encounters, and then it moves on into a brief description of a few interesting locations (and sometimes other pertinent  information, such as charts and tables unique to this territory). This format has been used to keep the fluff of the setting to a minimum, yet that is evocative, and can keep the book useable at the table.
This is a really great format, which focuses more on game play than setting minutia. The Lay of the Land section are features that can occur while traveling. The PCs may sometimes interact with these, but many are color. These, along with the encounters, could well be used (sometimes with cosmetic changes) in almost any Dungeon Crawl Classics game. For each of the areas, below, I am going to provide an example Lay of the Land and an example encounter, to give the reader a sense of what the book includes. Note that these are d% charts - while some features or encounters occur with a fairly frequently, each area has many options.

In order to avoid picking only the most interesting items, I am going to assume a roll of "50" in all cases.

Blighted Sands:
Lay of the Land: Jagged rocks jut out of the sand for several hundred feet There is a 35% chance the area will have patches of quicksand, 25’ radius (3d10+10 ft deep).
Encounters: A desert troll sitting atop a sand dune eating a giant scorpion.
Bogwood Swamp:
Lay of the Land: Sink pit (2d10+10' deep) full of orange leeches that will latch on and begin to drain a target’s life essence (1 Stamina loss per round until freed).
Encounters: 2d4 crocodiles.
Canyons of the Howling Red Rock:
Lay of the Land: Area is filled with softly glowing orbs that hum when living creatures approach. They are warm to the touch.
Encounters: 2d12 soldiers of Undra are being attacked by: Roll 1d5- 1) beastmen (outnumber troops 2-to-1); 2) 3d5 blood harpies; 3) 4 enraged centaurs; 4) a drake; 5) attacking each other, driven mad.
Frozen Wastes:
Lay of the Land: Small Ingvar village harvesting tubers and catching wild game.
Encounters: 3d4 Icy Flesh Clan goblins riding on the back of a wooly mammoth.
Great Plains of Unbidden Sorrow:
Lay of the Land: Small undefended farming community with 3d6+3 people.
Encounters: 3d4+3 guards from Fairweather. They are: Roll 1d6-1) fighting Eisenbar paladins; 2) camped out along the side of the road; 3) investigating rumors of a haunted keep that has appeared seemingly out of nowhere; 4) harassing a small avarian caravan; 5) dead and been torn apart by a vicious troll; 6) are looking for the characters.
Land of Perpetual Stone and Mire:
Lay of the Land: Large tar pit (30’ deep). Anything that falls in sinks 1d3’ per round. DC 20 Strength check to get out.
Encounters: 1d4 Rabid Ravens wish to bestow the characters with prophecy… if their minds can withstand the assault.
Mountains that Crawl:
Lay of the Land: Heavily defended Fairweather outpost resisting Malfactorum siege.
Encounters: Gnoll slavers traveling between the Great Plains of Unbidden Sorrow and the Bogwood Swamp.
Sea That Runs Red:
Lay of the Land: A small island of pure white sand. 2d4 marooned sailors are on the island after their merchant vessel was lost to the sea.
Encounters: A mutated orca bursts from the water and begins flying through the air.
Unsettled Expanse:
Lay of the Land: Bubbling pit of thick tar. There are several bodies of animals stuck in the pit.
Encounters: The animated heads of humanoid victims hover through the air and gleefully look for a victim to torture to death slowly.
Weeping Forest of Forgotten Memories:
Lay of the Land: A stream that flows gently through the woods; small amounts of gold are deposited in the waterbed. Successful Int checks will yield 2d14 GP worth of gold per hour.
Encounters: Small Wretched fairies cruelly pulling the wings of giant moths, giggling gleefully as they do it.
The reader should be well aware that, while these are glimpses offered into a variety of overarching locations, these locations may also have information that is specific to them (there are good reasons not to watch the auroras in the Frozen Waste), and all have specific locations (complete with Rumors/Adventure Hooks) within them.

Chapter 4: New Spells and Patrons: This chapter contains three new 1st level wizard spells, information on wizard's spellbooks, and four new complete patrons. The spells are Furnishings of the Mad Wizard (turn your enemies into chairs, pillows, candlesticks, or grandfather clocks!), Necrotic Mass (control your victims through the treat of magical tumors!), and Summon From the Void (summon a creature from the Void! It'll quite possibly kill you!).

The new, fully developed, patrons are the Charred Maiden, the Floating Island of Terror, the Spider Goddess, and the Twisted One. None of these are patrons for the timid. Or the sane. But there you have it. They are all well devised and flavorful.

The information on spellbooks actually comes first in the chapter, and is quite interesting. This material could easily be ported to other Dungeon Crawl Classics settings.

Chapter 5: The Strange and Terrible Gods of Hubris: This chapter begins with a clerical ability called Invoke the Name...essentially a form of invoke patron for clerics, which allows spellburn on a deity-specific table for each god.

The gods of Hubris are Bailey (God of Trickery, Deceit, and Profit), the Corpulent One (God of Excess, Want, and Obsession), Digradia (Goddess of Sacrifice, Shadow, and the Poor), Drallic the Flayer of Flesh (God of Pain, Intolerance, Strength, and Righteousness), the God of the Terrible Whisper (God of Knowledge, Secrets, and Madness), the Great Slumbering Monolith (God of Dreams, Prophecy, and Time), the Heathen Below (God of Death, Decay, and Betrayal), Set (Serpentine God of the Klind - God of Poison, Schemes, Forbidden Knowledge, and Deviance), the Stillborn Unwanted Child (God of Healing, Life, and Love, usually spoken of "with a contemptuous sneer"), Vralkar (God of Battle, Strength, Pride, and Survival), Yelsa (Goddess of Sex and Violence), and the Great Behemoth, Zxyldon (God of the Sea, Water, and Destruction).

There is a lot of meat here, and a lot of great ideas to steal for your game, even if you are not running it in Hubris!

Chapter 6: GM Tools and Tables: "This chapter contains a large collection of tables and
charts that can be used prior to or during the game to generate many things, like: creepy ruins, ancient and forgotten demigods, taverns and inns, villages, NPCs, city districts, and much more." You get:

  • Ancient and Forgotten Demigods
  • Bandits, Brigands, and Rapscallions
  • City District Generator
  • Diseases of Hubris
  • Grave Diggin'
  • NPC Generator
  • Planes of Hubris
  • So You Decided to Make Camp
  • Strange and Interesting Herbs of Hubris
  • Tavern and Inn Generator
  • A Vial of…?
  • Instatown/Village Generator
  • What are These Strange and Ominous Ruins?
  • Declaration of Years

Again, much of this is usable, either directly or as inspiration, in any Dungeon Crawl Classics campaign.

Chapter 7: Magic Items: This chapter includes a Strange, Mystical, and Fantastic Items Generator from which one might devise the Bottled Pitchfork of the Lecherous Fairy, the Squalid Mosaic of the Lamentable Prophet, and other items. It uses four columns of 100 descriptors each, allowing far more than a campaign's worth of strangely titled items to be created.

Ten specific "lesser" items are described, one of which is actually six items, and then a dozen Artifacts of the Deities. Finally, the chapter ends with Oddy Bodden’s Stupendously Amazing Magical Dice of Treasures Unimagined and Horrors Rather Left Undiscovered!

Chapter 8: Monsters: This chapter includes Contamination From Demonic Possession and a table to help determine What’s on Their Festering Dead Body before jumping into the bestiary proper. There are well over two score new monsters, including four types of dinosaur, a discussion of fae, and fallen angels (with two named examples).

For some reason, the really simple statblock format from the DCC core rulebook was not used. Given how easy this makes it to cut & paste statistics into your own home-brewed adventures, this is a real shame. This is not a unique flaw to Hubris, however, and it is the only one I have found, if you disregard terminology quirks like the dice chain being referred to as the dice ladder. And I do.

Adventures: Hubris includes two adventures:

  • It Came From Outer Space: This is a 0-level funnel that is designed "to highlight the strangeness of Hubris and that ANYTHING goes in this bizarre setting." 
  • In Her Realm: "An old hag who worshipped the Spider Goddess nearly all her life has grown thirsty for power and figured out a way to encroach into an area of the Spider Goddess's realm. The old hag must be killed for the pocket to be absorbed back into the realm of the Spider Goddess." This is a 1st level adventure.

Appendix N: Finally, the tome concludes with the "Yummy, Tasty Inspiration" that it was built off of. There is then an Index, and the OGL.

This listing took a long time to write because there is a lot to write about. The book is dense with usable tools, and playable material. Most of the sections justify the cost of the book by themselves. Taken in combination, this is an incredible value for the cost.
Hubris is a land of terrible creatures, grand inequality, strange and cruel gods, dangerous magic, opulent nobility, destitute commoners, people that have become corrupted and turned to savage beasts, constant wars, and worse.
The kingdoms are not kind or benevolent: In the Blighted Sands the Klind are slavers and openly practice sorcery, offering sacrifices to their depraved serpentine god, Set. Across the continent the Fairweather kingdom is governed by a corrupt and inbred royal family with the nobility following suit. Esenbar is ruled by a staunch xenophobic theocracy that tolerates little outside of their strict doctrine. The barbaric Ingvar of the Frozen Wastes wage vicious battles against the savage frost giants of The Crag, and care little about the goings on of the world; their life is cut from battle with an axe or sword. The Black Queen rules the citizens of the Floating Island of Terror from her throne of bones and dreams terrible machinations for Hubris. Shadowfall, built in the remains of the burrow of a gigantic worm, is ran by vampires and their thralls, and they welcome all who are devious, vicious and cunning.
There are no easily recognizable heroes in the world. You wander the wilderness or delve into ancient ruins: out of desperation, some crazed need for adventure, or for some bizarre belief that the world can actually be made a better place. Though civilization offers you security and comfort, you shirk those in the hopes of gaining riches and power. But when you die, no one will sing songs of your deeds. You will die a horribly bloody death at the hands of some twisted abomination or by the knife of an assassin sent by some fat, scheming noble.
Your epic tale will be forgotten in days as the dangerous world continues on without you and the apathetic masses stay complacent to dogmatic control of their government.
This is not a fairy tale or an epic ballad. This is a savage world. This is Hubris.
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Friday, 12 May 2017

The Hounds of Halthrag Keep

HHSOLO1: The Hounds of Halthrag Keep was written by Noah M. Stevens. Art is by Noah Stevens, Russ Nicholson, and Sam Schultz. The Vendel Re’Yune text is used according to the agreement found in Angels, Daemons, and Beings Between. and was written by Paul Wolfe. The publisher is Hapless Henchman Press.

This product is, essentially, a "Choose Your Own Adventure"-type book, which allows a single player to earn a 1st level PC by slaughtering a whole group of 0-level PCs (played one at a time) and learning from their mistakes. No judge is required...and, if used by a trustworthy player, the resultant newly-minted survivors should be a welcome addition to any judge's campaign.

If you are a judge picking this up, you will find a bunch of new creatures which you may wish to use in your own adventures. There are also three "cantrips"; minor spells that can be accessed through luck and skill in the adventure. These are Fae Chill, Lesser Ray of Logic, and Ifrit's Pizzle. Mechanics are provided which would allow you to use these in your home campaign, or devise similar cantrips of your own.

Long ago, as children, we flipped furiously through curious little tomes in which fate was delineated for us, Choosing Our Own Adventures, Fighting Furiously, little Wolf Pups All Alone under the covers, scribbling and erasing and picking entries.

Die, start over, repeat.  Keep your finger on the page so you can get back to the fork, you cheating cheater? Of course you did it!  We all did it.

Now that we are Men and Women, and Whatevers, we have shiny new things and do them the way we like.  Dungeon Crawl Classics is a new thing, and this thing you see here is a way to blend that Old Peanut Butter with your Spiffy New Chocolate.

The Hounds of Halthrag Keep is a story - the second oldest story - in which an innocent schmuck is plunged feet-first into the Flames of Truth and Adversity, to Die Badly or Win Big. That's all it is. It's hard.  It's unforgiving. It's relentless.

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